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Long Island Sound Environmental Synthesis

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A synthesis of results from recent studies of Long Island Sound has been published as a Thematic Section in the Summer-2000 issue of the Journal of Coastal Research. This synthesis highlights the major findings of the Long Island Sound Environmental Studies Project. The project was sponsored and funded by the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program and was conducted in cooperation with the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The primary objective of the multi-disciplinary research was to understand the distribution of bottom contaminants and benthic habitats in the Sound, one of the Nation's major urbanized estuaries.

The 10 papers in the Thematic Section focus on the regional processes, conditions, and characteristics of the modern sea floor in the Sound. The first three present overviews of the geologic, sedimentary, and hydrodynamic processes and framework that largely control (either independently or together) the bottom character and composition. The next four contributions outline the regional distribution of sediment types and geochemical contaminants including trace metals and Clostridium perfringens (a sewage indicator). The final three deal with infaunal benthic communities and specific biologic indicators of environmental change.

Principal Investigators from the USGS WHFC who contributed to the Thematic Section include Harley Knebel, Marilyn Buchholtz ten Brink, Ellen Mecray, Larry Poppe, and Rich Signell. Co-authors include Amy Farris, Erin Galvin, Polly Hastings, Jeff List, Barbara Seekins, and Dave Twichell. Contributing PIs from other organizations include Ralph Lewis (State Geologist of Connecticut), Johan Varekamp, Ellen Thomas, and Kristina Beuning (Wesleyan University), and Roman Zajac (University of New Haven). Additional co-authors are from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Northeast Utilities Environmental Laboratory, and the University of Connecticut. Editorial duties for the Thematic Section were shared among Harley Knebel, Ralph Lewis, and Johan Varekamp.

Several general implications emerge from the collection of papers in the Thematic Section. First, because of its glacial origin and post-glacial history, the Sound has a complex configuration and topography that significantly affect the present hydrodynamic structure, producing a highly variable distribution of bottom processes. Second, sediments derived from various sources (natural as well as anthropogenic) have been superimposed on the variable bottom regime, creating seafloor deposits that are both texturally and compositionally complex. Third, the heterogeneous seafloor processes, conditions, and characteristics largely control the biologic communities and regional benthic ecology of the Sound. Finally, the collected results provide a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of this complex estuarine system that is invaluable in the prediction and abatement of pollution, the management of biologic resources, and the documentation of natural versus human change.

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